Small groups serve as amazing transformational environments where the members of the body of Christ can bond, heal, and grow up into Christ (Jn 13:10; Js 5:16). Small groups act as cellular building blocks for the body of Christ. They operate at greatest efficiency and with most power when they are safe and authentic places for the individual members offering the grace and truth of Christ (Jn 1:14).
Effective small groups are places free of judgment, condemnation, lecturing or verse thumping. They are spaces where individuals can drop their masks, personas, and defenses, and just be real. Individuals are welcomed and encouraged to share their true hearts, including any hurt, pain, struggle, sin or valley experience they are enduring. They can count on the other members to gather around them spiritually and emotionally and hold them up while they limp through their dark valley.
Small group goals can include in order, (1) Acceptance, (2) Connection, (3) Safety, (4)Trust, (5) Vulnerability, and (6) Healing. Once the members feel accepted and connected then the safety of the group grows. Safety builds trust and then opens the door for vulnerability. Over time comes the healing (Js 5:16). Healing is the ultimate plumb line for the success of the group. If healing occurs over time in the hearts of the individual members, then the group has achieved the Biblical goal.
The first two steps, Acceptance and Connection, are foundational and keep the group bonded together. Imagine a branch thrown in the grass. What is it doing? It’s dying. Why? Because it’s not attached to the trunk that gives it life. A member of the body of Christ detached from the body is like that branch, alone and dying. Isolation is dangerous for a believer as wolves gather around isolated sheep. The body of Christ is like the tree trunk that provides the life-giving energy and safety from predators that the member needs to bond, heal, and grow up in Christ.
Small groups are places where hearts unite in the love of Christ to walk with and support one another through the difficulties, challenges, and impossibilities of life. While it is fine to ask for prayer for Aunt Susie’s hernia, it should feel awkward and superficial to the leader if no one opens up to share anything deep and serious related to their own heart. That is evidence that the group does not feel safe.
Educating the group members on the issue of shame can open up the door for many to authenticity. Shame is an effective tool of the enemy, a remnant dark blanket that his minions throw over the members intimidating and deceiving them to hide. Shame impedes the healing process and success of the group. It keeps the members bound and vulnerable under enemy influence. While hiding one’s humanity prevents healing, opening up to the light of Christ with the truths of one’s humanity facilitates healing. While the enemy would have us believe otherwise, every heart issue is common to man. We are never the only one.
The leader of the group is the one who determines the level of depth, intimacy, and healing that the group will experience. The leader begins sharing at appropriately deeper levels to lead the group in that direction. He consistently sets the example for the others as he models all of the steps. Over time, the members follow his lead.
It may take time for certain individual to share, but as they witness the consistent safe and authentic flow of the group, they will become more open to authenticity. Even the quiet members witnessing others share at a deep level can make a profound healing impact on their deeply wounded hearts. Groups work best when the members refrain from having close relationships outside of the group because their relational issues outside the group can interfere with the success of the group as a whole. The leader must carry discernment to refer serious issues to a professional in addition to the group or instead of the group.
Furthermore, small groups can even take the place of a therapist for those who cannot afford one. Each individual takes turns confessing issues or sins (Js 5:16) in the group as the other members receive them as Christ receives the church (Rom. 15:7). Then the members pray for them (Js 5:16). With this model, the individuals who shared can experience the benefits of therapy for free and receive the powerful healing prayer that most therapists don’t provide (Js. 5:16).
If you’ve never joined a small group, consider connecting to His safe and authentic body to maximize your growth in Christ. These groups are invaluable. Please don’t hesitate to move around until you find one that fits you.
John 13:10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.”
James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Romans 15:7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.